The coronavirus pandemic has pushed many of us to use video conferencing platforms in place of face-to-face meetings. At the EPO, oral proceedings before the examining division are now the default but there’s also a pilot program for using video conferencing (ViCo) for oral proceedings involving multiple opponents and/or requiring simultaneous interpretation before the opposition divisions. Whereas Examining Division ViCos use the Skype for Business platform, ViCos held in opposition take place over Zoom.
The EPO recently held a couple of information sessions to highlight the use of the Zoom platform and we have extracted a few points from that session along with the feedback from a ViCo Opposition that Keltie has taken part in.
From the EPO Information Session
- In order for an opposition to take place by video conference, all parties need to agree.
- The EPO and Zoom have apparently worked together to deliver an experience that meets the EPO’s particular needs. It should be remembered that oppositions take place in public. In particular, remember that the feed is public when being asked to show your identity documents. The EPO’s preference at this stage is to use an EPO card but, seeing as not every representative has one of these cards, the alternative is to show a passport. In order to protect the personal information of the representatives the EPO have a breakout room which is not public. Don’t forget to wait to be transferred to this room before showing your passport!
- The proceedings will not be recorded by the EPO. Any reference to recordings that may have been made previously by the EPO in respect of ViCos was in relation to mock proceedings.
- The EPO will not provide any additional channels or rooms for participants to use to discuss the case in private. If you want to be able to confer with your colleagues/client then arrange for a second communications channel (e.g. MS Teams, Skype, WhatsApp etc).
- The use of headsets is highly recommended
Experiences from a Keltie ViCo Opposition
- Keltie has taken part in a relatively simple opposition as the sole opponent. It was felt that nothing was lost compared to the “in real life” version of an opposition though this view might change for a more complicated case and/or if we were representing the proprietor. In particular, having to make amendments on the fly as the patentee’s representative and then communicate those via a distributed setup might be more challenging.
- Prior to the opposition starting the EPO ran through the technical arrangements and asked for the patentee’s representative to change their lighting slightly.
- Try and plan for as many eventualities as possible. In the Keltie case two different PCs were being used by the representative. The first was for the EPO Zoom call and the second was for a second channel (Skype) with the client/Keltie assistants. However, the second PC was configured to be usable as the main EPO connection in the event of a problem with the first PC. A 4G backup connection was also ready to go in the event of a broadband drop out.
- The Skype channel was set up as an all-day meeting so that everyone could dip in and out during the day as required. A text chat was also active throughout on Skype so that comments or suggestions could be passed along during the hearing itself.
- The translation aspect of the Opposition ViCo worked well and, in particular, there were no real surprises after watching the EPO’s video on this topic (see Further Reading link below). During the hearing a button is shown on screen with options for selecting a language. Once selected the audio includes the original audio (at 20% volume) as well as the translation so it mimics as far as possible the real life arrangements.
EPO FAQs – oral proceedings held by video conference (https://www.epo.org/service-support/faq/procedure-law/oral-proceedings-by-videoconference.html)
Oral proceedings by videoconference before opposition divisions (https://e-courses.epo.org/course/view.php?id=196) – see in particular the “Opposition Using the Zoom Platform” video from 6:40 where the Interpretation function is explained.
Technical requirements for video conference at the EPO (Zoom and Skype for Business guidelines) (https://www.epo.org/applying/online-services/proceedings/technical-guidelines.html)
Previous IPcopy articles about video conferencing at the EPO – https://ipcopy.wordpress.com/tag/video-conference/
Mark Richardson 20 October 2020
Thank you for this update, which may be useful (although I hope not) as I have recently had a European patent granted. Your update raises some interesting issues, particularly regarding backup measures & means to communicate privately with others. I am pleased to hear that things seemed to work OK.
Some things to think about.